Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: May 2014 Archives

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May 31, 2014

Sen. Sanford gets top billing when his opponent (unnamed until the second paragraph) accuses him of campaign-finance violations

AL.com reports: State Sen. Paul Sanford's Republican primary opponent is accusing Sanford of multiple campaign finance law violations and taking money from a PAC with Democratic Party ties.

David Blair held a Friday morning news conference in downtown Huntsville to outline his claims that Sanford wrongly used campaign donations to buy business suits and pay for lodging while in Montgomery. Blair also produced campaign finance records that he says prove Sanford raised money outside the allowable time frame and profited nearly $300 from a campaign loan.

The alleged Fair Campaign Practices Act violations occurred during the 2010 election cycle. ...

In a Friday morning interview, Sanford acknowledged using about $2,400 in campaign funds to pay for lodging in Montgomery during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. He said he generally stays in a FEMA trailer at an RV park. Records also show that Sanford used $735.10 from his campaign to buy suits, dress shirts and ties at JOS Bank on Jan. 3, 2012. --
GOP rival accuses Alabama Sen. Paul Sanford of campaign finance law violations | AL.com

May 29, 2014

Votes for McNeil may be cast, but won't count

Al.com reports: Republican candidate Chris McNeil says he's spent about $30,000 to get voters in the House 102 primary on his side, and he expects many are ready to support him on June 3. But after a judge's ruling on Tuesday, the one thing he won't be able to do is make their vote worth even the paper they're tallied on.

McNeil was before Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Rick Stout, seeking certification as a qualified candidate in the race; something he was denied when the Alabama Republican Party invalidated his candidacy for the House District 102 seat when it was determined the Semmes businessman didn't live in the district he was seeking to represent in Montgomery.

Unfortunately, the decision was made after the primary ballots were printed, so McNeil's name will appear as an option for voters, albeit an uncountable one. The race is to fill the seat held by retiring Rep. Chad Fincher. ...

And yet, after an afternoon of arguments from Agricola, as well as two lawyers for the defense, Stout ruled that what's done is done, and he saw no reason for the court to interfere with any sort of injunction or pre-certification. Several times during the proceeding, the judge asserted that the Circuit Court has no place in "partisan primaries." -- Judge rules votes for House GOP candidate won't count, even though his name is on ballot | AL.com

May 26, 2014

GOP will not refund fees for disqualified candidates

The Cullman Times reports: Cullman attorneys Tommy and Kim Drake filed suit against the Alabama Republican Party for allegedly keeping nearly $7,000 in qualifying fees after booting the couple from the ballot in the wake of complaints of “political opportunism” by the Cullman County GOP.

Tommy Drake had signed up to run against Republican incumbent Robert Aderholt in the 4th Congressional District in north Alabama, and his wife, Kim, had signed up to challenge Republican incumbent Beth Kellum for the state Court of Criminal Appeals. Their disqualification leaves Aderholt and Kellum without any opposition in the party primary June 3 or the general election Nov. 4.

In their civil suit against the Alabama GOP filed in Jefferson County District Court Thursday, the Drakes allege that since its executive committee voted to remove them from the ballot in February, it has failed to return $6,660.05 in qualifying fees they paid. They are demanding the Alabama GOP pay them back the qualifying fees (plus all interest and legal fees) as well as $19,000 in punitive damages.

They are charging the state GOP with breach of implied contract, unjust enrichment and fraud, misrepresentation and deceit. Calls to the Drakes and state GOP Chairman Bill Armistead for comment were not returned Friday. -- Cullman Times, 24 May 2014

May 23, 2014

Joe Hubbard asks AG Luther Strange for opinion on contribution received by candidate Luther Strange

AL.com reports: Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's Democratic challenger, state Rep. Joe Hubbard, has requested an attorney general's opinion about a campaign donation the attorney general's campaign accepted, but later returned. ...

On Wednesday, Hubbard requested an opinion to clarify whether the campaign donation transfer violated campaign finance reforms the Alabama Legislature passed in 2010, commonly called the "PAC-to-PAC ban."

Those reforms were meant to end transfers between PACs that political donors and candidates had used for decades to obscure the source campaign cash.

If the letter Strange's campaign wrote to the RAGA Alabama PAC is correct, and no violation of the law occurred, it could mean that there is a loophole in the law. -- Did a donation to Luther Strange break the law? AG's opponent asks for AG's opinion | AL.com

May 20, 2014

Candidate files suit over GOP removing him from ballot

AL.com reports: A state legislative candidate in Semmes has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Alabama Republican Party's decision to invalidate his bid for the state House of Representatives based on a residency issue.

The suit, filed late Friday in Mobile County Circuit Court, seeks a hearing as soon as possible and argues that the party's decision earlier this month was "unequal, arbitrary and capricious." The civil complaint seeks an order requiring the party to accept the results of the June 3 primary, where McNeil's name will be on the ballot in House District 102 because it was too late to remove it.

"We're asking Judge (Rick) Stout to certify that I am a candidate and certify my results," McNeil said. "I'm looking forward to my day in court." -- Semmes candidate McNeil seeks court order overturning GOP's decision to invalidate candidacy | AL.com

Attorney General returns a questionable contribution

AL.com reports: At one end of the money pipe is a national 527 organization with the Alabama attorney general on its executive committee and his former campaign manager as its executive director.

At the other end is the attorney general's reelection campaign.

But it's in the middle of the pipe where things get murky.

Last month Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's reelection campaign accepted a $50,000 donation from a newly registered Alabama political action committee. That PAC, in turn, received the same amount of money from a 527.

After the Alabama Media Group inquired about the transfer last week, the Strange campaign returned the donation to the PAC, while maintaining that it did not believe the contribution violated Alabama's campaign finance law that bans transfers between PACs and 527s. -- Return to sender: Strange campaign gives back $50,000 after questions about PAC transfer | AL.com

May 16, 2014

Wayne Flynt on photo voter ID

AL.com has a video interview with Wayne Flynt: On the photo ID law that goes into effect with the 2014 election cycle, which Flynt said is the "replacement for the poll tax":

"We now have a legal system, to the degree we can, of marginalizing black voters and Hispanic voters - by challenging citizenship, by challenging residence, by challenging who they are. To white voters, the argument is, why should anybody be offended by having to have a photo ID. Everyone has a photo ID. Everyone who is in their class has a photo ID. My dad, a sharecropper's son, he didn't have a birth certificate. To get a driver's license, he had to go back and get someone to certify he was in fact who he said he was. If you're white, that's one thing. If you're black, and you think the whole system is targeted against you and any visibility within that system requires you get a photo ID is not unlike the Tuskegee syphilis experiment or a hundred other ways in which they feel the government that is white is trying to do something to them. -- 6 opinions from Wayne Flynt on Alabama politics, the Democratic Party, Mike Hubbard, Parker Griffith and Robert Bentley | AL.com

May 15, 2014

AG says circuit court evidence ruling is fatal to case against former-Senator Lowell Barron

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The attorney general's office said Wednesday that a trial judge's rulings are fatal to its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron if they are not reversed.

Attorney General Luther Strange's office filed papers with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals encouraging it to consider rulings by Circuit Judge Randall Cole. The judge ruled last month that the prosecution couldn't present evidence about whether Barron and a former aide had a romantic relationship. The judge also rejected the attorney general's attempt to keep Barron from presenting evidence about what are ordinary campaign expenditures by candidates.

In the court papers Wednesday, the attorney general's office said, "These rulings, if not reversed, are fatal to the State's case." -- Alabama AG seeks appeals court help in Barron case

Hubbard alleges dirty tricks against him

AL.com reports: Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, is calling for help to get to the bottom of what he says are harassing phone calls, made all over Alabama.

The calls are not just going out to people in his East Alabama district, but also to people around the state. Hubbard says the calls consist of a scratchy recording of one of his campaign advertisements, but the ad was obviously recorded by some handheld device. ...

Hubbard himself says he has received the calls about 40 times. Hubbard believes the calls may be trying to irritate voters before his re-election effort on June 3. Hubbard, a Republican, faces Sandy Toomer in the GOP primary for the District 79 nomination. ...

So Hubbard has filed a complaint with the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission. Hubbard said pre-recorded phone calls made to cellphones violate federal law. And state electioneering needs to have a disclaimer too, Hubbard said. -- Speaker Mike Hubbard seeks answers on harassing phone calls | AL.com

May 13, 2014

DA investigates campaign contributions and spending of Republican candidate

The Anniston Star reports: A prosecutor says he is investigating a Republican candidate for the District 13 seat in the state Senate for potential violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Fifth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Paul Jones, whose office serves Randolph and Chambers counties, parts of which are within the Senate District 13, said he'd received several complaints about Heflin candidate Tim Sprayberry's use of campaign funds. ...

Jones said by email that during the review of public records including Sprayberry's filings with the Alabama Secretary of State, he'd found what appeared to be donations that have not been reported, as well as questionable or unexplained use of the campaign funds. -- Anniston Star - Randolph Chambers prosecutor investigating Heflin candidate on campaign funds

May 11, 2014

New Alabama rule on voters who move within the same county

The Alabama Secretary of State filed an emergency rule to conform to a decision of the Alabama Supreme Court 3 weeks earlier.

The new rule provides: If a voter has moved within the county and is now in a different precinct but has not changed her address with the Board of Registrars, she must go to her new polling place and vote using a provisional ballot.

The voter can avoid this problem by notifying the county Board of Registrars of her new address. The easiest way is to use the mail-in voter registration form at www.sos.state.al.us/downloads/election/vr/nvra-2.pdf. The voter can hand-deliver this to the Board of Registars by 5 pm on Friday, 23 May or mail it by that day (making sure it is postmarked on or before 23 May).

Emergency Rule on Voters Who Move Within County

May 7, 2014

Many state and local government workers are now allowed to run for public office

AL.com reports: If you're a state or local public employee with an eye on public office, you may be in luck.

The Office of Personnel Management issued a final rule Monday that implements the 2012 Hatch Act Modernization Act. The change, which goes into effect June 4, clears the way for most state and local employees to seek partisan elected office.

The change covers those who work in programs financed in part or in whole by federal funds. Workers whose salaries are paid entirely through federal grants or loans will remain barred from running for elected office.

Previously, all non-federal government employees working on projects that receive any federal funds were barred from seeking an elected office, even if that money made up only a small percentage of their pay. -- Rule change allows most state and local government workers to run for partisan office | AL.com

May 3, 2014

"Rep. Barry Moore asks for expedited hearing, says charges an attempt to 'undermine electoral process' "

AL.com reports: State Rep. Barry Moore has asked the court for an expedited hearing in his criminal case and says the charges are an attempt to thwart his re-election bid.

Lawyers for Moore filed the motion on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, prosecutors filed a motion asking that the court set a hearing no sooner than May 19.

Moore, a Republican from Enterprise, was indicted by a special grand jury in Lee County on two counts each of perjury and giving false statements. He has denied wrongdoing, and on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

Thursday's three-page motion says the indictment "is being used, by design, to undermine the electoral process in Coffee County, Alabama." -- Rep. Barry Moore asks for expedited hearing, says charges an attempt to 'undermine electoral process' | AL.com

GOP finds Mobile candidate ineligible, but he remains on the ballot

AL.com reports: Republican voters in Alabama House of Representatives District 102 can cast their ballots for Chris McNeil next month, but party will not recognize him.

The state party's candidate committee on Friday voted to remove McNeil based on a challenge that he does not live in the district. It is too late to change the ballot, though, so the party said in a prepared statement that it would urge voters to select one of the other two candidates.

"Because the deadline has passed to remove a candidate's name from the ballot, the Alabama Republican Party will work to educate Republican primary voters that Mr. McNeil's residency makes him ineligible to hold this office and that he cannot be certified as the nominee of the Alabama Republican Party," the statement read.

McNeil said he plans to press his case in federal court. He argued that the party's decision violates a federal order handed down by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery approving a decision to move up the qualifying deadline for candidates for the primary. -- Alabama GOP invalidates Mobile legislative candidate but can't remove name from ballot | AL.com

May 2, 2014

Criminal Appeals Court may dismiss State's pretrial appeal of evidence rulings in Lowell Barron case

AL.com reports: The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today signaled an intention to reject an appeal by prosecutors in its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron.

The appeals court, in its order issued today, said the appeal "is due to be dismissed because the Appellant is attempting to appeal from a nonappealable order." The court gave prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office 14 days to "show cause why this appeal should not be dismissed." ...

Prosecutors cited three points in its appeal:

  • [DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall] Cole said comments Johnson regarding a romantic relationship with Barron to a reporter of a Montgomery-based blog could not be introduced at trial, which is an element of motive.

  • Cole said prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of a romantic relationship between Barron and Johnson, which the state said would be a demonstration of motive and intent.

  • Cole said Barron can provide testimony and evidence from other politicians to discuss how campaign funds are spent, ruling against a motion filed by the state. -- Lowell Barron gains apparent victory as appeals court indicates prosecution's appeal may be dismissed | AL.com